Penny Mordaunt and the Prophet Nahum

It was interesting that the Coronation came two days after the local elections. Regular readers of this blog may not be surprised that I was pleased by Labour gains, hee hee gloat gloat.

I did also watch the Coronation. I had various thoughts during this long service, among which were: You may or may not want the King to be defender of the Christian faith, but can’t we at least get over the anti-Catholic bit? – and Am I the only one hoping for fewer musical interludes? And Prince William kissing his father was a lovely gesture.

Former Tory leadership contender Penny Mordaunt, who is something called President of the Council, drew a lot of attention by carrying and holding two swords (at different times), one of which in particular looked extremely heavy, and by dressing in a smart, appropriate but distinctive outfit. No woman has ever had this role before (the sword-carrying one), and even political opponents like Alastair Campbell and Emily Thornberry commented admiringly on how well she did her probably not easy role. (Soldiers stand and march with great precision all the time, but they’re trained for it in a way she probably isn’t.)

I’ve recently been reading the Old Testament prophet Nahum. His short book, 3 chapters, is entirely devoted to condemning the big bad cruel superpower of the day, Assyria, and its capital Nineveh. Nineveh is going to be destroyed, says Nahum with glee, and he was indeed correct. You could say that the moral of the story is that “pride goes before a fall,” but you could also find the unremitting gloat unsavoury, and I do.

Nineveh is also, of course, the subject of another, more famous, Old Testament book, the prophet Jonah. This book of course tells the story of how Jonah went to extreme lengths to avoid preaching repentance to the people of Nineveh – and when they in due course did repent and God spared them, he sulked. God said to him, “Shouldn’t I have pity on all these people and animals?” and the story ends.

Jonah, interestingly, is referred to as a prophet in one of the historical books of the Bible, and he and his book seem to be dated rather earlier than Nahum, which is a shame, because I would have liked them to have met.

You can put these books together, and say, “God is merciful, and on the occasion when the people of Nineveh repented, God spared them. Sadly, they went back to their old ways, and were destroyed in due course.” Surely that is missing the point of Jonah rather spectactularly.

Or you could imagine Jonah meeting Nahum, as I suggest, and saying, “You’ve written a very powerful piece there about Nineveh. I don’t know if you’d like to read my comic novella with a twist?”

“What is its theme, brother?”

“That even the Ninevehites are human beings.”

Penny Mordaunt’s star turn reminds me that political opponents are human beings. This is, or should be, one contribution that Christians – and other people of good will – can make to public life. To reduce invective, to strive not to be vicious.

Ideally, this is so. But then Boris Johnson or Donald Trump hit the screens, and I turn back into Nahum.

Love from the PPI Blogger

  • Stephen Hall

    8th May 2023 at 6:27 pm Reply

    I come across this “all Tories are evil” view a lot. The idea seems to be that all they think about when they get up in the morning is how to enrich themselves and their friends, and extract the maximum amount of money and labour from the British populace while providing the minimum amount of services and support in return. It all seems rather unlikely to me.

    For all his many character faults and moral failings, Johnson’s main motivation as PM seems to have been glory for himself via ‘boosterism’ and the spending of lots of money on grands projects so as to leave such a legacy that history would count him a second Churchill. Truss’s economics turned out to be illiterate, but I expect she did believe that a debt-fuelled dash for growth was the best way to kick start the economy, and that everyone would benefit. Perhaps I’m hopelessly naive, but I don’t see how anyone could become PM and not wish to well-judged by history.

    We should certainly apply moral judgements to politicians, including whether they think enough about how their policies will affect the most vulnerable. But labelling the lot of them as evil seems a tad simplistic. Not as interesting at any rate as engaging with their subtler motivations.

  • Stephen Sheridan

    8th May 2023 at 9:44 pm Reply

    An interesting book to look up.
    The Assyrians were indeed the Iron Age militaristic superpower that drove themselves to destruction by civil war and then conquest by an alliance of their former conquests led by the Medes and Persians. It is worth a visit to the British Museum to see the huge amount of Assyrian remains there. I was lucky some years ago to go there for the Ashurburnipal Exhibition “King of Assyria, King of the World” and there were a group of modern day Assyrians ( tiny minority group in Syria) attending I had a good chat with. Check out their mystic spirit beast like Shedu and Lammasu and the the “handbags” they carry which are more likely to be buckets.
    Their driving themselves to destruction is the lesson of course – any empire built on oppression will eventually implode as Putin and Xi will one day hopefully discover…

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